The Office of Hearing Operations closed its doors to the public almost two weeks ago and began offering some telephonic hearings depending on the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). At first the ALJs could not conduct hearings from home telephonically, but have been working with IT on that solution. Our office held conversations with the local hearing office which stated that they tested the phone for home hearings last week. In office staff at the hearing offices are limited.
Having a phone hearing reduces postponements, but in many cases, is disadvantageous to the Claimant. Advocates have been battling the requirement of video hearings for years now for the same reasons. SSA’s own data shows that hearings held via video result in fewer favorable determinations then those held in person. Not all circumstances, but in some, it may be in your best interest to have a hearing in person rather then by telephone. Additionally, our office has found many Claimants lack reliable phones to have a telephone hearing or live in remote areas without adequate service.
Our office is evaluating on a case by case basis what we feel is in the best interest of the Claimants.
There have also been guidelines given to local DDS offices regarding missed deadlines, failure to attend exams, and other issues that would usually result in a denial. SSA noted they are suspending workloads that would cause a reduction, suspension or termination of benefits and instead focusing on income security.
As representatives advocating for those with disabilities, we understand this is a trying time. Our office is open for calls and online assistance and continue to help the disabled. If you have a claim for disability and need assistance, please call our office and speak with one of our qualified representatives or attorneys. Gardberg and Kemmerly is committed to helping the injured and disabled in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, if you need help with a disability claim, call the office at 343-1111 for a free consultation.